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Linn Mimik II - CD player

[Linn Mimik II]

[Italian version]

This Glasgow-based HiFi Company is well known among audiophiles because of the landmark turntable Sondek LP 12 but Linn HiFi is not exactly a traditional company: without rejecting the precious experience and know-how Linn had in the field of analog machines now the Company is driving the digital wagon at full steam.
You may read the inter.views (with Mr. Ivor Tiefenbrun) we have already published here on TNT-Audio if you want to know more about the new hi-tech up-to-date HiFi and HT components from Linn.

Following a well established tradition of this Company, after a new top-end component comes a more budget-oriented design so to fully exploit the acquired potential and know-how.
It happened 10 years ago for the Linn Sondek itself, which generated a simplified (and cheaper) brother called Axis and it's happening again: the Karik digital combo (Karik CD transport + Numerik D/A converter) have generated the Karik integrated CD player and then the Linn Mimik which shares with its bigger brothers some of the main ideas if not components.
The Mimik after few years has been slightly improved/changed and now what people call Mimik II (though the II isn't written anywhere on the player) is a fully SMD (Surface Mount Devices) components equipped digital player.

The Mimik II is a mid-class CD player which costs something around 900 UKP, a price range which is plenty of contenders, either made in England/Europe or made in Japan.
This player uses the same cabinet of other Linn electronics (the Majik integrated amp, for example), a black parallelepiped (32 x 32 x 8) with a display on the left and the CD transport on the right.
Not particularly attractive, it is a perfect example of British understatement: no gold plated knobs, no aluminium thick panels etc., just everything one needs to play Music and nothing else.
The level of the finish is good and the Mimik gives the user a feeling of a well-designed and built HiFi component.
A do-it-all remote is of course available though the Mimik can be controlled via any Philips/Marantz remote. With the same Linn remote one can control almost anything which is Linn-made: amplifiers, radios, multiroom systems etc.
One particularly interesting feature is the double pair of analog outputs: designed in order to use the Mimik into a multiroom system, they can be successfully recycled to compare different signal cables. Just use two different cables and two different preamp inputs and you're done: real-time A-B cables comparisions can be made...of course, I'm talking of component-dependent comparisions here, since the two outputs are in parallel and this fact could alter the behaviour of the circuits when two cables are being used. After all, each cable comparision is strongly component-dependent.
Fow what I know not every Mimik has a digital (BNC) output, for example the one I had for this test. I guess that if you need a digital output you should ask your dealer before ordering your own Mimik II.
The mains cable is detachable, a pleasure for us special mains cables lovers :-)
The last thing I'd like to bring your attention to is the signal cable (interconnects) which Linn gives with each HiFi component: it's a good cable with gold plated connectors and a clear sign of the attention that Linn pays for its customers. Kudos to Linn for this! I hope other HiFi brands will do the same: it's simply ridiculous to sell a thousand $$$ HiFi component equipped with a 10 cent. signal cable.
And now let's listen to the Mimik!

The tonal balance

The first question one should ask is whether or not this second-born digital player has something to share with its bigger brothers.
Well, it is clear that the Mimik II has inherited a good part of the sonic qualities of the Karik (stand-alone or + Numerik) and this means that the engineers at Linn know how to use top-end technology to design more budget-oriented components.
Before starting with the analysis of the sound of this player I'd like to point out and state clear that I have listened to the Mimik II with its own stock cables (signal and mains), exactly like the common customer will do in most cases.
Later I'll examine the Mimik with different cables so to understand how much of its sound is due to the component itself and how much to the cables.

The Mimik has a clean and well refined midrange, classy enough to remind of the sound of more expensive competitors. This midrange serves as a basis for a neutral high range, which has a slight roll-off in its upper portion.
The trasition between the mid and the high range is continuosly differentiable (ooops, sorry, sometimes my mathematical counterpart rises its ugly head), in other words there's no audible transition: everything flows naturally, without edges or partial steps. This is quite uncommon, since many mid-priced players do have an edgy transition between mid and high range, something clearly audible and totally unnatural, quite fatiguing since this trasition happens exactly where the human ear is more sensitive.
Instead, the Mimik is coherent, natural and the Music flows through it without effort.
The low distortion makes the sound of this player, at least in this portion of the audible spectrum, very natural and enjoyable, even when playing difficult instruments such as the saxophone.
This instrument, IN REAL LIFE, is sometimes aggressive, quite metallic, always polished (pun not intended) and tremendously dynamic.
Our HiFi systems, since they aren't able to reproduce this sonic signature realistically, try to do what they can, giving us a sometimes harsh and overbright representation of this instrument.
Not so the Mimik, thanks to its self-control, it avoids to TRY to recreate the full dynamics of the instrument and offers you a sax which is enjoyable enough to create the illusion of a real sax into your listening room without trying to reach the unreachable.
Male voices are treated the same way, a little bit light but always realistic and enjoyable. The task is easier when playing female voices, which are reproduced with a sense of breath and presence so that the illusion to be there is very, very convincing, even if we're listening to some difficult soprano.
This sonic behaviour makes the Mimik forgive the worst recordings, even the harshest ones. It is able to play any disc, sounding excellent with good audiophile recordings and still enjoyable with bad recordings.

And now let's talk about the mid-bass and the bass range.
The mid-bass of the Mimik is articulated and gives a note of warmth to the sound of this player while the bass is clean, round and just slightly rolled-off in the first octave.
It seems that it lacks the energy to fully reproduce the deepest organ pedals or some vibration of the double-bass.
As we'll see later much of this is due to the signal cable.
The bass guitar and the drums are excellently controlled and articulated, the Mimik has never lost its self-control when playing very rhythmical discs. So, even in this portion of the audible spectrum, the Mimik shows its best qualities: self-control and low distortion.
Just to summarize a little bit: the Mimik tonal balance is very good, the Music flows effortlessly through it, sounding very coherent, controlled and neutral, just a bit rolled off at the upper-highs and lowest bass.
You can easily follow each nuance of the Music without missing anything of the whole.


It is the thing that hits your ear the first time you plug in the Mimik.
This player isn't exactly a wall-shaker: it is sometimes slow, it leaves that the Music passes through it without trying to add something of its own.
This behaviour, together with the tonal balance, makes the Mimik a very relaxing, Music-oriented player.
Don't get me wrong: it is slow but NOT LAZY. This is a HUGE difference: cheap CD players are normally lazy, in the sense that they can't follow the dynamic variations as they should and while trying they lose something on the way.
The Mimik isn't affected by this sort of dyspnea (difficulty to breathing) like many other players: it possesses a deep breath instead, it doesn't pursue the following note grasping for breath, it gently reachs it without effort.
So you can be sure that if a dynamic variation is recorded into your CDs, the Mimik won't forget or skip it: attacks and decays are there, analysed, decomposed and recreated so that you can hear the breath of each instrument.
For example if the pianist plays a legato the Mimik will offer it to you very realistically, without hurry, in full relax so that you can hear each note clearly linked to the previous and to the subsequent.
Where other player CUT without excuses, the Mimik takes a deep breath and extracts each tiny information that was recorded into the CD.
So, it is not the kind of dynamic sound that shakes your walls and your underwear :-), it is rather a relaxed, analytical, and precise way of playing Music.
In other words: it slows down but not because it is tired or gasping, it does that so you can better enjoy the musical scenario.

3D imaging and soundstage

The 3D virtual image recreated by the Mimik is convincing, especially for its impressive sense of depth. The focus is very good and thanks to the clean midrange and to the self-control of this player, the image remains well focused and stable even with big choirs and complex musical signals.
Even the height of the image (something which is hard to get) is good and convincing.
When in the syestem there's a good pair of mini-loudspeakers the image is amazingly realistic, with a soundstage which is wide, deep and well lit up.

Some advice and some test with different cables

First of all the Mimik needs at least an hour of Music to perform at its best: no, not an hour of burn-in, I'm talking of an hour (or even more) of PLAYED Music, there's a huge difference.
Thanks to the good and sturdy mechanical construction the Mimik isn't dependent by the position: a stable, perfectly horizontal plane is all that it needs.
You won't achieve great improvements using tip toes or shock absorbers or other similar devices, a sign that the cabinet of the Mimik isn't just there to cover the circuits...
And now let's talk about cables, starting from the easiest issue: the mains cable.
The stock mains cable which comes with the Mimik package is just a stock mains cable :-) (you know what I mean). Since it is detachable you're strongly encouraged to try some special mains cable: you don't need to spend an arm and a leg for this, even our cheap DIY mains cable called Merlino can work fine.
It doesn't make a HUGE difference but it helps the Mimik to sound a little bit more lively and punchy. I have even tried more expensive cables but the difference was very subtle, so I'd recommend you to not spend too much for this.
And now the trickiest part of these tests: the signal cables.
I don't know how much of the sonic signature of the Linn cable is fortuitous or strongly desired: it suffices to say that the Linn cable strongly influences the sound of the Mimik.
The sweet roll-off at the highs and at the lowest bass is mainly due, believe it or not, to the signal cable. Change it with something else (Kimber, Monster etc.) and the Mimik will sound audibly different.
Don't get me wrong, different doens't stand for better in my dictionary: with other cables the roll-off disappears but sometimes it disappears also the great coherence of this digital player. As usual, it is a give and take game, and with the Mimik, finding a better compromise is very, very difficult.
The Mimik is a ready-to-play package, with a clear sonic signature that can be easily destroyed by changing the signal cable without accurate and extensive listening tests. The Linn cable isn't just the usual stock cable given with other players (even more expensive than the Mimik...), it is a real part of the player itself so any change should be carefully evaluated, as I always say, by means of listening tests.


The Mimik II is a serious CD player: its main pluses are a clean and classy mid and high range, an articulated mid-bass and bass range, a good 3D image and a sense of breath that makes listening to your favourite Music a new, relaxing and enjoyable experience.
It is not the kind of player made to impress: it will make you fall in love with it after many hours, so please do yourself a favour: don't listen to this CD player at your HiFi dealer, unless he gives you all the time to evaluate the personality of the Mimik, it clearly deserves it.
The Mimik is an elegant, classy and self-controlled player, don't forget to test listen it if you're searching for a CD player that will offer you more Music and less tedious HiFi.

A huge thank you to the Linn Italia staff (Antonio Trebbi in primis) for being so friendly and kind.

Now, if you want to read another listening test, performed with different systems, into different rooms, with different discs, ears and musical tastes, please read the Giorgio Pozzoli's test here on TNT.
We evaluated the Mimik without saying a word about its sound till the reviews were already written. Surprisingly (well, not so much to me) we've got similar impressions from this player and this should shed some light on the neverending debate of subjective/objective listening tests.

© Copyright 1998 Lucio Cadeddu

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